For a long time, NAR has worked to improve the rights to unemployment benefits for doctoral candidates who have no income in the period of completing their dissertation.
We have succeeded in reducing the quarantine period considerably in connection with the submission and defence of the thesis. We have also gained acceptance for everyone to get an individual assessment of their application for unemployment benefits when the PhD period is over, but the thesis is not finished.
When the PhD period is finished, but the thesis is not
The general rule is that one must be a genuine jobseeker in order to receive unemployment benefits. This means that one must be available for work, and not pursue any activities during regular working hours that would make one unavailable for the labour market. Education is therefore in principle incompatible with the right to unemployment benefits because one is not considered a genuine jobseeker if one is under education.
As a general rule, PhD candidates who have not submitted their thesis by the end of the appointed period, cannot continue to work on their thesis and at the same time qualify for unemployment benefits. This is pursuant to the National Insurance Act, which states that one has to be a genuine jobseeker and that unemployment benefits should not fund education. Until 2012, NAV maintained that working on the dissertation as part of your doctoral training was to be defined as "education", and no individual assessments were made in relation to the exceptions in the regulations. NAV's orientation to doctoral candidates still has the same general rule.
Forskerforbundet/NAR believes that doctoral candidates working on the thesis in their spare time shall be entitled to unemployment benefits, as long as they otherwise meet the requirements for job seekers during normal business hours. As of 15 October 2012, we have in dialogue with the Labour and Welfare Directorate gained acceptance for everyone to be entitled to an individual assessment of their application for unemployment benefits. This means that working on their dissertation cannot per se exclude anyone from the right to receive unemployment benefits. Every applicant must be given an individual assessment, according to the 'Regulations concerning unemployment benefits', § 4-3. However, a recent ruling in the Insurance Court (2015) states that doctoral candidates working on their dissertation are considered being under education and therefore not entitled to unemployment benefits.
In a letter to NAR in 2012, the Labour and Welfare Directorate states that they will change their former practice and start assessing applicants individually. The applicant’s local NAV office is therefore required to make a specific and individual assessment in order to establish whether the terms for receiving unemployment benefits have been met, including consideration of any exceptions stated in the ‘Regulations concerning unemployment benefits’, § 4-3, paragraph 4.
We have been informed that not all local NAV offices have changed their practice accordingly, and we will keep working to achieve this.
Quarantine period after having submitted dissertation
Previously, PhD candidates had to be available for the labour market for a continous period of at least eight weeks in order to qualify for benefits. As of 2011, this no longer applies. NAR succeeded in getting the Ministry to change this rule, and doctoral candidates now follow the same rules as everybody else: You must have been registered as a genuine job seeker for a minimum of three days out of the previous 15 days (not counting Saturdays or Sundays). This has reduced the quarantine period from eight to three weeks.
Quarantine period when preparing for disputation
PhD candidates are not entitled to unemployment benefits while preparing the defence of their thesis. This is stated in NAV’s circular on unemployment benefits and education, Section 3.9.3. Therefore, PhD candidates are not regarded as genuine jobseekers in the last two weeks before their thesis defence. Previously, this quarantine period lasted six weeks, but as of 2011, NAR has succeeded to change this rule as well, and the quarantine period has been reduced from six to two weeks.
All together, the quarantine period for doctoral candidates has been reduced from 14 to five weeks.